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Black metal with a pastoral tip - 70%

drengskap, April 30th, 2007

This release caught me on the hop – the title and cover artwork, a reworking of a Millet painting of a peasant wielding a mattock, led me to expect some mellow neofolk. Instead, what you get is ‘melodic black metal influenced by rural medieval themes’ (to quote the press release, which I should have read before slapping the disc in the player!). After readjusting my ears to the black metal frequency, I listened with interest. The Encrimson’d sound has been tagged as ‘Rural Metal’, but sleepy and bucolic this ain’t – they’ve been busy beating their ploughshares into swords.


Encrimson’d is a Minnesota three-piece formed in 1999, featuring Chris Danacek on bass and vocals, Shaun Koelsch on guitar and Jared mason on drums, and Agrarian Menace is their full-length debut. Respect is due to Encrimson’d, who are still unsigned, for creating such a professional-looking and -sounding CD release. Seven tracks extend to 47 minutes.


Folksy influences on black metal aren’t unheard-of. Ukrainian bands like Nokturnal Mortum and Hate Forest have been blending folk music into the blastbeats for ages, creating what is in fact a more radical sound than that of Encrimson’d, who employ folk themes without actually making extensive use of folk instruments. And of course Scandinavian acts like Ulver, Taake and Burzum have frequently made references to Nordic folklore, with Ulver and Taake actually recording songs in Old Norse rather than modern Norwegian. Encrimson’d adhere to a pretty traditional black metal template, with fast and furious (non-triggered) drumming, surging guitar, the occasional acoustic interlude, and vocals alternating between guttural and shrieking. The lyrics are notably free of the kind of Satanic, Odinist and nationalist sentiments normally associated with this kind of music, focussing instead on themes of medieval conflict and revolt, a bit like The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath A Cloud (to make a very non-black metal comparison). The production is raw and organic. There are spoken passages of Czech poetry, reflecting vocalist Chris Danacek’s ethnic background.


Encrimson’d aesthetics and lyrics are more original than the music, but this is still above-average black metal, which manages to be distinctive in a genre which is increasingly overstuffed with undistinguished and indistinuishable bands. The Encrimson’d website has two tracks from Agrarian Menace to download if you want to find out what they sound like, including ‘The Piper’s Tale’, which is the standout track on the album in my opinion.